Morel Dinner (and Hunt!) at Black Star Farms

by Emily Lechowicz

Emily and a big morel!

Emily and a big morel!

Luck was on my side of the bay this past Wednesday as the only beautiful and sunny day of the week happened to fall on the same evening as the Black Star Farms monthly Harvest Dinner. These six-course, wine paired dinners are each designed to feature one or two ingredients in every course. The theme for May? Morels, of course!

As a unique add-on, Black Star Farms offered attendees the chance to learn the art of “moreling” by hunting for morels in the woods that border the farm with two of Michigan’s first certified mushroom experts Jim Moses and Linda Grigg. Jim and Linda, who are also husband and wife, brought samples of the different morels they had picked, and explained to the guests what to look for, how to look, and most importantly how to tell the difference between true & false morels.

Visitors came to the hunt on a perfect mid-May day, excited and equipped with plastic mesh bags to carry the morels they hoped to find. Because it’s been so dry in the area lately, it was truly a hunt to find the morels in the woods. After searching for a good twenty minutes, the mushroom hunters were getting slightly discouraged, especially those from out of town who rarely experience the tastiness of the morels and the fun of hunting them.

Morel Mushrooms in Leelanau“I found one!” someone shouted, and the guests swarmed around the newly found mushroom like they had just found gold. There it was: a small, white morel, barely peeking out from under the leaves. Everyone huddled around the mushroom to snag a picture of it in the ground before the knife was taken to pluck it from its roots. Before the excitement could die down from the first morel found, another morel hunter yelled, “Here’s another one!” Seems like we found a good spot for a group of white morels, despite the dry spell.

Along the way, Jim and Linda spoke about their different experiences in the woods finding their favorite fungi and also shared some tips on how to look for morels. “The best way to find morels is to just stare at an area,” said Linda, “then your eyes will adjust to the ground around you.”

As the hunt went on, I got to tag along with Linda for a while, and she talked about her farm of organic vegetables, along with other fungus that she and her husband find in their woods. “I like to dry the Hen of the Woods (another fungus), crumble them and put them in soup!” Linda commented, “They’re very healthy.”

Morels in May DinnerAfter the hunt, it was on the table. The setting reflected Black Star Farms perfectly, with centerpieces lined with mason jars and lights lending a back-to-farm yet elegant ambiance to the event. From the a mushroom bruschetta with wild ramp taster paired with a gin and a morel simple-syrup cocktail that welcomed us and through courses including ragout of morel mushroom and a venison, farm egg, and lemon ramp risotto, Executive Chef Jonathan Dayton and his culinary team showcased many aspects of morels. A favorite amongst the guests were the morel mushroom buttercream cake, morel mushroom meringue and candied morels for dessert.

Chef Dayton shared his feelings about Spring saying, “It’s exciting for me because we can finally go foraging in the woods and get outside of the kitchen and hoop houses. It’s not just morels we’re looking for and using – we use wild leeks (ramps), asparagus, and perennial herbs that have returned in our gardens.”

Morel Bruschetta with wild rampStephanie Lee Wiitala, Events Coordinator and pastry chef at Black Star Farms, simply wowed the guests with her expert wine pairing with each and every delicious dish that was brought from the kitchen. As each of the six courses came out, Lee Wiitala introduced each dish, and why she choose the specific wine that she chose to pair with the course. She outdid herself by pairing the chocolate-frosted morel buttercream cake with the honey-infused, sharp, tangy Sirius White dessert wine to create a delectable delight.

Cynthia Goodrick, a dinner guest, raved about her experience. “Each of the courses had a fine wine pairing that left you seeking another bite, no, another sip, no yet another bit. Each dish involved daring and inventive flavors, but also included were a few perfectly prepared standbys, delicately balanced and finished.”

Dinner was a complete success, and with the added fun of the morel hunt with Jim and Linda Moses. Lee Wiitala did an outstanding job putting together the event, and

The team at Black Star Farms put together an experience that left attendees happy and satisfied, full of amazing food and wine and new knowledge in the art of moreling. I even walked away with a morel of my own from the hunt!

You can click the link for information & reservations for upcoming Harvest Dinners at Black Star Farms.

Morel Love

Here’s a gorgeous video by Aaron Dennis of Traverse City’s Stone Hut Studios from last year’s morel season. They’re out in full force now:  head for the woods to find your own or check out many of our local restaurants who are serving them now. One great option for the morel lover is Black Star Farms annual Morel Mushroom Harvest Dinner this Wednesday night (May 13). There’s still a few seats left and the dinner includes a guided morel hunt with local mushroom expert Jim Moses!

Wild Food Wednesday: Morels

back-in-the-day-with-michigan-morelsMichigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the U.S. and that diversity doesn’t stop at the market! Our woods are alive with tasty and nutritious food if you know where to look. In our Wild Food Wednesdays we’ll tip you off to seasonal goodies that you can find around TC and give you a recipe or two so you can enjoy the meal as much as the hike to find it!

In the pantheon of wild foods in Northern Michigan, the morel certainly reigns supreme, drawing thousands into the woods & wilds to hunt for this elusive and delicious mushroom. Read on for all kinds of morel goodness including events, pics, a video, tips and a great recipe! Photo: Back in the Day in Boyne City, courtesy National Morel Mushroom Festival Read more

Wild Food Wednesday: Ramps or Wild Leeks

Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the U.S. and that diversity doesn’t stop at the market! Our woods are alive with tasty and nutritious food if you know where to look. In our Wild Food Wednesdays we’ll tip you off to seasonal goodies that you can find around TC and give you a recipe or two so you can enjoy the meal as much as the hike to find it!

Whether you know them as ramps, wild leeks, spring onions or by their scientific name of Allium tricoccum, ramps are a wild onion with a delicious & pungent garlicky flavor. They are popping up in the woods right now, so we’ve put together a guide to harvesting and using these abundant harbingers of Spring and welcome your suggestions in the comments!

Read more

Epicure Catering Farm Visit: Boss Mouse Cheese

This guest blog comes via Cammie Buehler of Epicure Catering. She’s got a lot of great work on her Epicure Catering blog, including regular writeups about her food adventures with business partner Andy Schudlich and others that include visits to farms & food producers and the many opportunities to harvest your own food that make this area such a delight!

article & photos by Cammie Buehler

I recently had the good fortune to enjoy a farm visit to Boss Mouse Cheese in Kingsley, MI. I met owner/cheesemaker Sue Kurta a while back and the more time I spend with her, the more I enjoy her company- plus anyone who offers me mid-day wine and snacks is kind of a hero. My dear friend Kristin, who also happens to be a cook and owner of K2 Edibles, joined me on the adventure. Read more

BBQ Bash at Left Foot Charley next Thursday!

Left Foot Charley Cider

Next Thursday (January 22nd) from 5pm-9pm Left Foot Charley invites you to their Mid-Winter Summer BBQ Bash, Cider Release and Menu Takeover featuring summer tunes with a reggae flavor, a fire pit and fun for everyone.

It’s a chance to throw off the Polar Vortex and get your July on with the release of a new medium dry cider from Boals’ Farm in Antrim County and an amazing menu to pair with their wines and ciders designed by Chef Keil of Bay Town Kitchen.

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The Remedy Cafe Grand Opening on Jan 25

Waffles at the Remedy CafeThe Remedy Cafe will have their Grand Opening on Sunday, January 25th. It’s a project of Pete Kirkwood, owner of The Workshop Brewing Company, and located in the same building in  TC’s Warehouse District (in the former location of Xylo Bistro).

The Traverse City Record-Eagle had a short feature on The Remedy Cafe:

The Workshop Brewing Company built a success story for owner Pete Kirkwood. The brewpub/restaurant has a loyal clientele. Business is strong.

Now, Kirkwood plans to serve breakfast, but in a new location. It’s not too far from The Workshop — in the same building, just a few steps down the hall.

“I want it to feel like part of the same community,” Kirkwood said. “You’ll know you’re in a different place, but they’ll be connected.”

The two eateries will have separate identities and separate kitchens. But they’ll share an executive chef, Scott Williams, current chief in The Workshop’s kitchen. Each also will have its own dedicated chef. All 14 employees at The Workshop will be cross-trained so they’ll be comfortable in both spaces, said Kirkwood. A few new employees will join the mix.

…He plans to carry The Workshop’s model of using local, seasonal ingredients in offerings at The Remedy. When The Remedy isn’t serving breakfast, it will be available for party and event bookings, Kirkwood said.

The Workshop’s beverage license will extend to The Remedy, he said, so both establishments will offer drinks.

Stay tuned to their Facebook page for updates and click below to view some photos of the new space!

 

Batali raves about Harvest

Congrats to Simon at Harvest on a king-sized shoutout from Mario Batali on Twitter over Thanksgiving Weekend!

  via Twitter: Wheeyumbang!! @RoamingHarvest is damn fun and DELICIOUS!! We will be back again and again….!!! Thanks a zillion!

 

Harvest by Mario Batali

 

Black Star Farms

Perennial Polyculture Parade with Seth Bernard

Grand-Traverse-Edible-Trails

The Grand Traverse Edible Trails Project invites you to join them this Sunday at 3 PM for the Public Perennial Polyculture Parade with Seth Bernard!

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Local Farmers in National Geographic

Nic-welty-9-bean-rows
Photo courtesy Ken Scott Photography

National Geographic News has a great article on America’s aging farmers and how spiraling costs are keeping young farmers out of farming that features several Grand Traverse & Leelanau County farmers!

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